Some governments find pleasure in shutting down communication when they find it convenient, as can be observed with the recent internet shutdown in Uganda during the elections. There is another group that has consistently used a similar strategy in Northern Kenya: Al-Shabaab.

The terror group which largely operates in Somalia has many times launched attacks in Kenya, especially along the expansive Kenya-Somalia border. Unsurprisingly, one of the common tactics they use is the destruction of communication masts thus leaving large areas without a mobile and internet connection.

This is a common occurrence in Northern Kenya, with some incidences not being reported in the media. Some of the incidences are reported below:

-         On 13th January 2020, Al-Shabaab militants destroyed a communication mast and killed three teachers in the Kamuthe area, Garissa County.

-         On May 16th, 2020, Suspected Al-Shabaab militants destroyed a Safaricom communication mast in Khorof Kharar, Wajir County.

-         On 9th July 2020, Al-Shabaab militants attacked and destroyed a communication mast in the Korakora area in Garissa County.

-         On 4th December 2020, Al-Shabab militants destroyed communication masts at Karo in Mandera County.

-         On 5th December, Al-Shabab militants destroyed a communication mast in Dilso, Garissa county.

-         On 18th December 2020, gunmen attacked and destroyed a communication mast in Elele area, Mandera county.

-         On 12th January 2021, al-Shabaab militants bombed a telecommunications mast in Banisa Sub-County, Mandera County.

The game plan was usually to cut off communication before launching attacks on their targets thus hindering response from security personnel. However, this now seems to be an end in itself, as destroying communication masts is a form of economic terrorism that will frustrate Kenya.

The impacts of this are felt wide.

Being a sparsely populated area, providing telecommunication services is a challenging task, and thus maintaining them when they are constantly under attack becomes a hard task. A single attack could also affect a large area depending on how traffic from different sites is being routed. Being a remote place where many places lack a mobile signal, the terror attacks make it even harder to get more people connected.

It could also be an attempt at getting the telcos involved to pay protection fees as it has happened in other places of the world. For example, MTN was accused of paying the Taliban in Afghanistan so that its cellular towers would not be targeted.

Whatever the motive, the people of Northern Kenya continue to pay the cost for this, with telcos forced to incur extra costs due to high operating costs involved.

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